SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT A SERIES OF TALKS TO COMPLEMENT ‘A WESSEX SCENE’


 

 

Messums Wiltshire is delighted to announce two talks which will complement our A Wessex Scene exhibition, showing in the Long Gallery from the 2nd until the 31st of December.

For time immemorial a plethora of artists have sat in front of and drawn the landscape of Wessex — an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Great Britain whose borders stretched the entirety of the south of England. In the 19th century, Thomas Hardy resurrected the ancient name of ‘Wessex’, leading to a revival of its popular modern use. In an 1895 preface to the novel Far From the Madding Crowd, he summed up Wessex as ‘a merely realistic dream country’, capturing the wild and fantastic nature of this archaic place, mostly unchanged in spite of the passage of time.

Messums’ A Wessex Scene hopes to recapture the magic of Hardy’s wonderful description by presenting a remarkable collection of paintings, drawings and etchings which illustrate the rich history of the ancient south-western region: sites such as Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and Durdle Door, scenes which have been painted by renowned artists Turner and Constable and now rest in national collections. A Wessex Landscape follows in the footsteps of Judy Pfaff’s ‘Roots Up’, 140 foot sculpture exhibition — again inspired by this area’s remarkable natural and artistic heritage.

David Inshaw Saturday 2 December 11.00am Free Admission

David Inshaw is one of the exhibiting artists in A Wessex Scene and is most famous for the painting ‘The Badminton Game’, (1973) now in the Tate collection. David now lives and works in Devizes and fell in love with the Wessex landscape by reading Thomas Hardy. ‘The way that Hardy used landscapes as a metaphor for human emotion struck a deep chord’, he has commented in conversation with Rachel Campbell-Johnston, echoing our own curatorial rational behind ‘A Wessex Scene’. David will be interviewed by our curator Catherine Milner about his relationship with the surrounding countryside and this inspiration for his revered paintings. This talk, opening the entire show, will provide a rare chance to listen to this artist, amazingly situated within the very views he has painted. David will be showing two paintings: ‘Cloud Study, Rainbow’ and ‘Banished’ — two very disparate takes drawing from the inspiration that the Wiltshire landscape provides.

Norman Ackroyd CBE RA 13 December 6.30-7.30pm £10 Early Bird £15 On the Door

Norman Ackroyd is one of Britain’s foremost etchers, known primarily for his aquatint work which hangs in the Tate and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Norman is passionate and knowledgeable about the local landscape, having visited and created works of art inspired by the melancholic lakes belonging to Fonthill Abbey, home to one of the greatest collectors of the 17th century; William Beckford. In fact, one of these poignant pieces ‘Bitham Lake’ will be featured in ‘A Wessex Scene’ and will be one of the many artworks contextualised in a seminal career discussed by Ackroyd, again in conversation with our curator Catherine Milner. Norman studied at Leeds College of Art and subsequently at the Royal College of Art in London. Norman was elected a Royal Academician and was made Senior Fellow, Royal College of Art. He now lives and works in London. Join us for an artist’s talk which mustn’t be missed.

Tickets for David Inshaw: [Free] https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/artists-talk-a-wessex-scene-with-david-inshaw-tickets-38533334240

Tickets for Norman Ackroyd: [£10 Early Bird £15 On the Door] https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talk-artist-printmaker-norman-ackroyd-cbe-ra-tickets-39653848729

Messums Wiltshire Makers Market


17 November 2017 is the start of our winter Makers’ Market in the barn, which runs until 26 November 2017, (closed Monday and Tuesday). The everyday crafting that Christmas demands — writing, wrapping, making, buying — denotes all of the aesthetic decisions which often go unappreciated at this busy time of year. The simplest, and yet most effective gift that the season of Christmas can encourage, is that of love and friendship, communicated often through the joy of words. Our market will reflect this theme by including books, binding, printing, card-making, stationary and beautiful pens and inks.

Kate Holland, a multi award-winning bookbinder and a Fellow of Designer Bookbinders, uses traditional materials and techniques to produce a unique, contemporary binding that reflects the texts, illustrations and typeface of the book in question. Kate will be here in the barn, personalising her hand-stitched Italian leather books with your, or a loved one’s, initials. Handmade, in jewel-bright colours, with vintage wallpaper endpapers and presented in beautiful gift boxes, Kate can hand-tool any message or drawing on to the covers of her various notebooks. Kate’s hotly-anticipated ‘Alphabet Books’, released in November of this year, are designed to be collectable classics — these will also be available from the Makers’ Market.

Esme Winter, a design partnership established in 2011 between Richard Sanderson and Esme Winter stocks a distinctive style of pattern-designing, which can be seen throughout their high-quality paper collection. All Esme Winter patterns are designed in-house and each product is proudly made by trusted makers in the UK and Europe, using traditional materials and processes. We are offering the chance to purchase Esme Winter’s striking multi-purpose papers, inspired by the work of early 20th century decorative arts movements such as Art Nouveau and Deco. These sheets have many uses, including gift-wrapping, bookbinding, origami and more. Cards and gift tags, as well as other wrapping paraphernalia will also be available as part of the Makers’ Market.

Pens and ink, to write out your cards as well as your ever growing wish-lists, will be available from the stockist Herbin — the ‘oldest name in ink production in the world’. Ink-pots, pens and wax will all be displayed, helping you to add a touch of grandeur to your festive correspondence.

To complement our Christmas market, we will be offering card-printing courses (to pre-book) in the Long Gallery next door on the 18 or 19 November with maker Finn Bush. The sending of printed Christmas cards originated in London during 1843, with printmakers believing the ritual was merely a soon-to-pass trend. Fast-forward a century and a half, taking the time today to make a card or present for a loved one is one of the most meaningful gifts one can offer. Take up the rare chance to learn about four of the most popular printing methods: wood-cut, engraving, dry-point and monotype. Coming up with a design, choosing a method and settling down to the artistry of this occasion will symbolise the personal industry of this joyful season.

The Christmas Makers’ Market will be in Messums Wiltshire’s 13th century tithe barn from Friday 17 November – Sunday 26 November (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Take a break and enjoy coffee, mulled wine and mince pies looking onto Judy Pfaff’s extraordinary installation ‘Roots Up’.

To read about the upcoming market: http://messumswiltshire.com/christmas-makers-market/

To book for the Christmas card printing workshop: http://messumswiltshire.com/workshop-christmas-card-printmaking-finn-bush/

TALK: ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’ with Jinny Blom


Jinny Blom Artist’s Talk — 1st November 2017

‘That night I had a vivid dream. I was in a crowded football stadium filled with screaming fans. Beside me a small child I didn’t know was trying to get my attention. He was insistent and inaudible. Eventually I bellowed out into the stadium: ‘Will you all please be quiet — the child wants to say something’. Silence. I bent down and he whispered: ‘Please may I be a gardener?’ It might sound daft but that was that’.

— Jinny Blom, ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’, 2017.

Jinny Blom began her career as a landscaper in 2002. She had previously worked as a Jungian psychologist for twenty years, a role centred around the care and treatment of mentally ill patients. The two professions of psychologist and designer, although seemingly disparate at first, arguably stem from the same source of conscientiousness: with the pastime of gardening concerned with deriving pleasure — and ultimately health — from our surrounding environment. Nature is, of course, the greatest nurturer.

Jinny’s first job started six months into her ‘overnight’ career change, with a commission for the Manor at Temple Guiting. Here the inspiration for her garden design came from a profound appreciation of history and geography. Jinny used plants, trees and flowers to filter and construct the land around the views her clients did and didn’t want to see, resulting in a remarkable manipulation of spaces. Combing ‘simple planning’ and an elegant colour scheme, Jinny was able to achieve a kind of botanical equilibrium, creating a garden which proves easy to maintain and almost looks after itself. Jinny’s adage ‘to develop or not to develop’ denotes the play between the natural world and her taming of it; pitting crumbling, ruinous outhouses against the kitsch topiary of box-plants, styled into pigs.

She went on to describe other exhibitions and commissions, all of which are elaborated on in her wonderful book ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’, available from our bookshop. A particularly humorous narrative was concerned with an exhibition in the Jardins des Tuileries, Paris. Used to the military precision and organisation demanded of the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere of the French, one that almost reached a level of nonchalance, as they were happy to sit around smoking and chatting, before commencing with the installation.

Another career-defining project was commissioned by the Spring restaurant at Somerset House. Reverse-casting huge gunnera leaves into liquified marble dust, Jinny’s finished ‘interior-garden’ was reminiscent of many of the plant exhibits at the Natural History Museum. ‘The tactile quality of the walls I made for Skye Gyngell’s restaurant was the product of my desire to make things with originality and Skye’s love of truthful ingredients. We won a prestigious landscaping award for the atrium’ she said of the project.

We were then treated to a ‘tour of Kenya’, with Jinny speaking about the vulnerable earth of Laikipia, the ground of a landscape unsuited to human vulnerability. This terribly fragile and eroded area is the location for a rhino conversation project, one which encourages landowners to join their estates into migration corridors, as well as developing lodge-schemes for the protection of this endangered animal. It is obvious Jinny is passionate about this cause: ‘If you get to a point where we’re cutting the tusks of rhinos and elephants to protect them you know we’ve gone wrong somewhere as a species…I’m not too fond of the human race’.

Jinny has participated in two Chelsea Flower Shows — experiences she says, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that she could have done without. Her second show at this prestigious occasion was in collaboration with Prince Harry in honour of the AIDs charity he supports. This project was given the green light three days before the deadline for submissions closed. Her high-tech evocation of the landscape of Lesotho, a country where the charity Sentebale works. Jinny described her awkward exchange with a rather bored Queen, an anecdote that everyone laughed at. With every new slide there came an ‘ooh’ or an ‘ahh’ from the audience, proving Johnathan Messum’s introductory analogy accurate: Jinny’s dream of a ‘stadium filled with screaming fans’ had materialised in the form of a sold-out talk, here in Messums’ Long Gallery.

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Judy Pfaff – A Pioneer of Installation Art


Judy Pfaff’s ‘Roots Up’ installation opened at Messums Wiltshire on 23 September and continues for another month until 26 November. Pfaff was one of the first contemporary ‘installation’ artists – one of a stable of artists working in New York in 1970s who experimented with this medium and ‘Roots Up’ is a continuation of the anti-white wall, ‘maximalist’ narrative common to other artists of her generation, instigated perhaps by the French artist Marcel Duchamp with his Mile of String earlier in 1942. Pfaff’s conversation with material commenced in the 1970s, counter to conceptual and minimalist trends; being ‘one-of-a-kind, room-filling and immersive’. She commented that ‘many, many artists now do similar work. But when I began…not so much’. ‘Roots Up’ is her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom.

After completing her Master of Fine Art at Yale in 1973, Pfaff created her first large-scale installation which showed at the nonprofit Artists’ Space. Installation artworks often exist as a unified, immersive experience, rather than being comprised of smaller, separate entities, often occupying an entire room or space. The eminent art-historian Linda Nochlin observed of Pfaff’s works that ‘I, the spectator, hardly spectated at all: I was drawn through, around, into the piece’. The installation genre emerged out of environmental art, which was prevalent throughout the late 1950s, and in the next decade asserted itself as the new major strand in international contemporary art.

Pfaff’s pioneering work synthesises sculpture, painting and architecture into dynamic ‘atmospheres’, into which the fabric of space itself seems to expand and collapse. Her work is a complex ordering of visual information, composed of steel, fibreglass and plaster, as well as natural elements such as tree roots; the central focus of Messums’ exhibition. Her wild prodigious creativity combines a delicate filigree of organic roots and steel branches with towering fantail pillars inspired by ecclesiastical architecture. Drops of glass spinning to the floor like gargantuan raindrops fall onto what looks like a neolithic earthworth. Pfaff’s work verge on the edge of chaos but is underpinned by a rigorous order of motifs made up of spheres, helixes and other geometrical shapes.

Perhaps it is obvious to state that Pfaff was one of the very first women artists to work in installation. She was written about in this context by Nochlin, a writer of course known for her revolutionary article ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ and was characterised in 1971 as the ‘most articulate feminist art-historian’. In ‘Judy Pfaff, or the Persistence of Chaos’ (1989), Nochlin identifies a key discourse found in Pfaff’s work, that of ordered chaos; a subject arguably inherited from the Impressionists which was seen in its time as wild. Nochlin realised the relevance of chaos to Pfaff’s achievements and demonstrated how it has often been dismissed as a female trait. ‘The good art-work’, Nochlin wrote, ‘in other words, is cast in the image of masculinity — aggressive, wounding, hard-edged, well defended — as opposed to the “bad” or trivial one, which is feminine by definition — a hodge-podge of unelevated objects thrown helter-skelter, without defence, into a shapeless, feminine receptacle’.

Pfaff found Nochlin’s difference between ‘male’ and ‘female’ chaos particularly insightful, commenting in 2007, ‘the same kind of impulse [chaos] could be recognised as being very powerful and also very flaky. I really liked that conversation. Because when I work, I think most people think it’s just fun. There is so little fun going on that it actually p***** me off. I’m really involved. To have things feel loose takes a sort of thoughtfulness. There’s a rigour in that’. Pfaff’s words live up to her bold and strident work, demanding that ‘Roots Up’, a piece that took two years in the making and two months to install, be placed in the context of chaos’s academic legacy and be used to further the term’s deconstruction. ‘Roots Up’ has arguably met Nochlin’s binary pairs of adjectives somewhere in the middle: it is an installation that is neither ‘aggressive’ or ‘wounding’ nor ‘defensive’ or ‘shapeless’, but is, instead, a balance between chaos’s manifold interpretations.
Pfaff’s work cannot be construed as feminist, radical or otherwise, but it is relevant to the international art world’s much needed catch-up with feminist artists from the 1970s and 1980s, with numerous exhibitions of their artwork showing and selling at Frieze London 2017 for example.

Pfaff has received many awards including the MacArthur Foundation Award; a Bessie; and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has had major exhibitions at Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Denver Art Museum; St. Louis Art Museum; and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. Pfaff represented the United States in the 1998 Bienal de São Paulo. She now lives and works in Tivoli.

Judy Pfaff’s ‘Roots Up’ is on show at Messums Wiltshire until Sunday 26 November.

Photo credit: Iain Kemp Photography

A One Year Milestone


Long Gallery - Photo credit Iain Kemp

23 September 2017 — A One Year Milestone

The 23rd of September 2017 marked a historical milestone in Messums Wiltshire’s history, a year ago to the day we opened for the first time, welcoming over 2500 people over the weekend. This year our anniversary was marked with the opening of a large-scale exhibition by American installation artist Judy Pfaff and an audience who packed into our new space to hear her introductory talk.  The Long Gallery is perpendicular to the main tithe barn. This new permanent exhibition gallery focuses on two-dimensional works of art including paintings, drawings, etchings and photographs to complement programming in the Barn.  This gallery has a long panoramic sweep of a glass window, viewing straight onto the rolling hills of the Fonthill Estate, once owned by the greatest collector of the 19th century, William Beckford. Its enormous north-facing windows let in ample light for viewing works of art such as the current display of Judy Pfaff’s complementary two-dimensional and smaller installation pieces.

As well as The Long Gallery, a new reception space provides context to the wider sense of Place Farm and in the opening months displays smaller works of art by artists from our stable, and newer artists such as Ying Sheung Wong whose delicate porcelain plates fly up the right-hand wall. Ying graduated the MA Ceramics programme from Bath’s School of Art and Design this year and we are happy to welcome her to our growing collection of artists.

The white cube Pod in the main barn, continues to serve coffee in a remarkable location and offers an extensive collection of handmade and hand chosen artefacts by leading makers and designers from Fred Baier to Tracey Boyd, as well as Art materials and specialist art books.

It’s been an incredible twelve months: from Turner prize winning ceramic artists to modern dance and classic cars, our programme has been varied and diverse. Highlights of last year’s exhibitions include Material: Earth with Grayson Perry and Edmund de Waal and Art in Motion: Design & Inspiration including a McLaren F1 and a P1. This ‘series of firsts’ culminates a spectacular programme of events and we look forward to hosting many more this year and the years to come. Thank you all for your continuing support and enthusiasm. If you hve not already done so, please sign up for our to our mailing list at: http://messumswiltshire.com/sign-up/

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Talk by Judy Pfaff on Her Installation ‘Roots Up’


 Judy_Pfaff_Roots_Up Photo credit iain Kemp

Judy Pfaff is an American artist known primarily for her immersive and expressive installation art, who currently teaches at the Bard College of Art, New York State. In 2015, she and Johnny Messum were introduced at a gallery in New York, an occurrence that somewhat incidentally led to an invitation to create a large-scale installation in the Messums magnificent 13th century tithe barn.

Judy introduced the opening of her first solo show in the United Kingdom with an artist’s talk. One of her most insightful remarks on ‘Roots Up’ revealed that she must choose where she travels to very carefully, as her location and surroundings always appear in her work. Her art, she admits, is entirely responsive to the events which happen to herself as well as others, citing 9/11, recent devastating flooding in the United States and familial deaths as examples.

Her being so attuned to the environment is perfectly evidenced in Messums Wiltshire’s latest exhibition, a literal reflection and reconsideration of the surrounding ancient landscape. When first visiting this corner of the country, Judy was shown around Old Wardour Castle, Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge. She was particularly interested in the architecture of the central vault in the Cathedral’s Chapter House, an element which can be found (now abstracted in form) in the finished show. ‘Roots Up’ is an exhibit which incites wonder, awe and the desire to explore our exceptional surroundings. Her 140ft installation piece combines the psychedelia of the local summer solstices, the magic of dark winter nights and the folklore of times gone by. Judy’s two-dimensional and smaller sculptural works displayed on her specially crafted ‘photowalls’ can be viewed in The Long Gallery next door.

Her fantastical, gravity-defying show is evocative of the buildings designed by her favourite architect, the Spaniard Antoni Gaudí. Architectural flourishes of his are echoed in Judy’s colourful floral bowls, fluted medieval vaulting and overflowing trees; oozing their sparkling multicoloured sap. Judy is resolutely interested in colour, not necessarily concerned with its technical features but instead its artistic, atmospheric qualities — a Kandinsky-like appreciation perhaps. Such excess, ostentation and vivacity is reflected in her approach to two-dimensional work. She describes how creating one image will end with ‘a hundred’ being produced.

DSC_2911 (web)Judy’s talk prioritised her processes and highlighted the scale of preparation which goes into such a monumental work of art. She demonstrated just how many people played an intrinsic role and humanised the entire operation by naming those involved. ‘Roots Up’ was a huge undertaking, one typified by the large sycamore ‘root bowl’ framing an elevation of the installation. This tree’s previous owners had done everything they could to get rid of it: attempting to cut it down and even burning it, to no avail. ‘Please take it!’ was the reply when Judy expressed an interest in using the tree for the show. She is able to notice the magic in objects that others are desperate to part with and amazingly, through her unique artistic production, she is able to allow everyone a window into the way she experiences the world.

And her world, as the art critic Dennis Kardon observed in Art in America, ‘has never been cowed by refined minimalist sensibilities’ instead is ‘wild’, ‘prodigious’ and ‘creative’. When she first started working in New York during the 1970s, she chose to ignore the climate of conceptual art as it simply ‘was never my thing’. This, she claims, provides a reason for her rather ‘funny’ or ‘interesting’ reputation. As she gained artistic prominence, she describes being including in a West Kunst exhibition and furiously discovering that the historical section included no women, an unfortunate phenomenon not unlike the treatment of contemporary female artists. The passionate and explosive character of Judy’s stories seem almost at odds listening to her measured slide-show presentation. Her commentary on her work and life was brief and light, allowing the photos and artwork to speak for themselves. Judy manages to be humble without becoming falsely modest and wryly quoted a previous agent’s opinion on her installations: ‘If I could sell this s***  then I would be a great dealer’.

‘Roots Up’ is a work which arguably exceeds comprehension: we don’t need to understand it even, we can just be amazed. Judy succeeds in taking us beyond the everyday and into the realm of the fantastical, childlike ‘opposite land’, an adventurous place where up is down and down is up and anything seems possible.

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‘Nature is Imagination Itself’ — A Talk by Jane Hall


 Jane_Hall_Talk
Not long into her talk, Jane Hall quoted the famous William Morris saying — ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’. The breathtaking beauty of her work is perhaps obvious to any viewer. The time, dedication and sheer patience that it takes to produce her life-like insects is remarkable. Morris’ reference to utility, though not perhaps immediate apparent, will soon become clear.
 
Jane trained in embroidery at Loughborough and her work, which has expanded, grown and developed since then, is now concerned with the minute replication in stitch of butterflies, flowers and fairies. On average it takes 8-10 weeks to create only one of her precious butterflies, time, she says, spent listening to radio plays and imagining in her wonderful garden studio at her home in Dorset. This studio is filled with everything Jane needs, an abundant amount of cotton-reels, needles and trays of real butterflies which met their deaths naturally.
 
The talk was commenced by demystifying the materials she works with, namely silk, chiffon and organza. These were then passed around for the audience to appreciate. She demonstrated that the Japanese needles she uses are specially designed with flat heads and round eyes; so they do not damage the ever-so delicate fabrics. Jane referred to her work as ‘studies’, ‘still-lives’ or ‘portraits’, using anthropomorphic language which transforms these butterflies into beings as human as you or I — and thus deserving of these artistic terms.
 
Just as inspiriting is her profound knowledge about the creatures she has dedicated her life observing. Jane was full of stories about the lives, biology and history of her marvellous animals. She demonstrated how the Peacock butterfly has markings, which upside-down look like owl’s ears, in order — miraculously — to catch predators off-guard. This was made clear by a skilful 180° rotation of the projector, a feat which everyone enjoyed. There was another tale about the belief that butterflies soured milk, one generated by superstitious farmers concerned with the lore of fairy kind.
 
And so, we return to William Morris, and having ‘nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful’. Jane admits to becoming more and more invested in nature conservation, the environment, extinction and reintroduction. In the United Kingdom, it is clear that the butterfly is very tangibly in peril. According to charity Butterfly Conservation’s 2015 study, ‘70% of the species are declining in occurrence…and 57% declining in abundance since 1976’. Jane’s artistry is another way of engendering interest and maintaining the butterfly’s position in the front of the mind. Her passion in conservation was typified by the symbiotic relationship between the Large Blue and the humble ant — a fascinating and surprising story. 
 
It was apparent that Jane’s love of these fairy-creatures does not stop at drawing, painting and sewing. Instead it is a passion which has been honed from childhood: from the days of sending letters to the birds, by way of the hedge on the way to school; inviting them to tea. The excavation of a field— removing 350 tons of top-soil — was in order to design a butterfly garden and magical fairy-house. Over a decade ago Jane made a shimmering golden wedding dress over 8 months, which is now deservedly resting in Mompesson House, Salisbury. Her latest undertaking is a work that will span years — a butterfly cabinet and ‘her piece of Heaven’: an homage to the cabinets of curiosity or kunstkammers of the 16th century. The eventual dream will be layers upon layers of butterflies: pressing up to the glass in a complimentary wooden frame made by Rupert Brown. 
 
If you are interested in Jane Hall’s work please see http://clothofnature.com/ and for butterfly conservation http://butterfly-conservation.org/.

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Beyond Parnham – John Makepiece OBE


Launching his new book about Parnham, the Tudor mansion where he established one of the most important centres for the creation of furniture in this country, John Makepeace concluded by drawing on the spirit of John Ruskin “uniting the head, the heart and the hand,’ is the most important element in creativity and drove his ambition for the College.

‘At 18 I left school but didn’t go to University,’ he said. ‘I was a cack-handed woodworker except that I had seen woodwork when I was aged 11 and that had stayed with me. People said I would never make anything out of myself as a woodworker and so I took a long distance course learning how to teach craft and took holidays in Scandanavia and America,’ he said.’ In 1957 Britain was still a pretty grey country but there I could ring up virtually any furniture maker and went to see them as I travelled throughout the country.’

His breakthrough came when he made a glass-topped table and took it as a prototype to Heals who ordered first six of them, and then, sixty. But it all got too overwhelming said Makepeace, ‘they started having to be made in Yugoslavia and we started selling them in their thousands.’

In  September 1977 he established  a course at Parnham for people who were practical as well as creative, binding together making, design and business; subjects that were, at that time, taught by different institutions.

‘I realised that the graduates from the Royal College of Art knew nothing about business or making; they were being trapped in a single cause,’ he said.

‘When people do something in depth and well it sets a pattern for life but it is so hard for young people to find places to work to the best standards nowadays.’

He added: ‘If we want entrepreneurs, they need a proper education that brings out all their talents rather than a single strand. In the 21st century there is the scope to use digital design, creating craft is about newness as much as traditions.’

‘Regardless of technology, things made by hand touch our souls and express our cares and our passions’ he concluded.

John Makepeace talks about Parnham College at Messums Wiltshire

ART IN MOTION: Talk by McLaren’s Mark Roberts


Mark_Roberts_McLaren_Talk (Art in Motion: Knowledge & Design, May 2017)

On Friday 19 May, Mark Roberts, Design Operations Manager at McLaren Automotive, gave the third talk of the Voices of the Future series – an integral part of our Art in Motion; Knowledge and Design exhibition that runs throughout May.

Mark has been at McLaren Automotive since its beginning in 2010 and started earlier, when the Company was in its prior incarnation as McLaren Cars, the organisation that famously produced the fastest and most exclusive super-sports car ever – the McLaren F1 in 1992 – and also the Mercedes-Benz SLR after that. In fact, Mark joined McLaren during the very first week of McLaren Cars, when the company’s co-founder and design visionary, Gordon Murray,  was building his team from scratch. That was 27 years ago and Mark has been there ever since, employee number 9 of over 2500 today. As Design Operations Manager he is near-unique at McLaren having seen the company grow into the UK’s most successful super-sports car manufacturer.

Mark_Roberts_McLaren_Talk (Art in Motion: Knowledge & Design, May 2017)

McLaren F1

Appropriately, Mark’s talk started with the beginning of the F1 project (the last prototype of which is on display throughout May at Messums Wiltshire): he described the unprecedented scenario that saw designer Gordon Murray and the Company’s joint financier, Ron Dennis, decide to build a car that incorporated McLaren’s formidable experience in Formula One motor racing together with Murray’s vision for ultimate road car design. He showed the processes through which the F1 car was conceived, made and developed; he championed the great protagonists in the processes, not least the formidable engineering talent of Barry Lett, and designer/stylist Peter Stevens. Mark’s recollections, wonderfully illustrated with drawings he salvaged from Peter Stevens’ waste-paper basket at the time (apparently Peter didn’t regard his sketches as having any value at the time…) served as a fascinating insight into the evolving design process of the F1: a car that was so far ahead of anything produced before, that even today it is the fastest car of its kind in the world.

Mark described how the F1 was perhaps the last car at McLaren to be drawn in all its elements, and how it was put together by individual teams in the classical, low-production fashion. It was a very small team that created it, and that ethos survives at McLaren where a similarly small ‘family’ produces all McLaren’s current cars. There is a resulting efficiency and integrated methodology that allows McLaren to design and complete a car in just 14 months from initial sketch to production. Something larger companies could only dream of.

The second part of Mark’s talk focused on the evolution of the current range of McLaren cars, part of a process called Track 22 which saw 22 cars designed and put into production in the current expansion phase. Referring to the P1 on display at the foot of his stage –essentially the spiritual successor of the F1 – Mark walked round the car and showed how every little aero-detail was exactingly considered. He showed how airflow worked over the car, how the trim details deflect air to do different jobs, and how nothing on the entire car is superfluous to exacting requirements.

Mark_Roberts_McLaren_Talk (Art in Motion: Knowledge & Design, May 2017)

Mark discusses the P1

From his walk round the amazing P1, Mark took us through McLaren’s pillars of design philosophy. He showed us how McLaren tried to ‘shrink wrap’ bodywork around the mechanics to create the leanest possible cars and looked to nature, in particular  the shapes of sharks,  falcons and the male human body, for inspiration.

He also explained a process called ‘layering’  to allow air to flow freely through the car and the use of natural prototypes to create a sinewy, muscular and organic aliveness to their designs. He focused on certain areas which showed the complexities of, by example, brilliant door-hinge design, together with other elements of automotive ‘jewellery’: how all individual parts of McLarens are carefully considered. He described how important is was to be brave and to sprinkle in a dose of ‘magic’ in every part of the process – that all these elements, together with a cohesive team approach, rather than individuals working alone, were core to the creation of all McLaren’s products.

Mark_Roberts_McLaren_Talk (Art in Motion: Knowledge & Design, May 2017)

Clay modelling – part of the design process

For the last part of his talk Mark took us through the current design processes at McLaren Automotive: from technical worksheets, to the creation and editing down of multiple themes; from 2D into 3D renderings and then CNC-cut clay modelling and how the models are then modified by hand. He showed how adding a silver finish to models allows the designers to work better with light and optimise the ultimate muscularity and compound curves of the cars. Mark described how the design team might walk around a clay model for 2 weeks, changing the tiniest details that might look right one day… but oddly not the next – such are the processes of honing great design. And finally Mark described how Virtual Reality in design now contributes and how ‘computer gamers’ are employed to create realities and tools previously beyond their wildest dreams.

All in all, Mark’s talk was a gripping and unprecedented insight into McLaren’s modern car designing process, and the near-200 strong audience loved every minute of it. We are enormously grateful to both Mark and to McLaren Automotive for their time and supplying their precious F1 and P1 prototypes for the Art In Motion show.

See the current McLaren range at:  http://cars.mclaren.com

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Patrons Tour of the Venice Biennale 2017


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Messum Wiltshire’s curator Catherine Milner and Kate Sallier de la Tour led a small group of collectors including some Messums patrons around the Venice Biennale in a five night whistle stop tour of the most important fixture in the contemporary art calendar.

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Phyllida Barlow at the British Pavilion

From Phyllida Barlow’s concrete boulders at the British pavilion that flanked the outside of the building like shrubs in Fred Flinstone’s garden to some ‘speaking portraits’ by Paul Benney in a deconsecrated church, Venice offered a wide array of artistic offerings.

One of the most memorable exhibitions was in the Palazzo Fortuny where three floors of the building, once the atelier of the famous fabric designers, showed everything from ancient stone menhirs dating from 4,000 BC to Marina Abramovich’s newest installation – a collection of crystals that visitors were invited to touch to realign their chakras.

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Damien Hirst with Annabel Jolly

Other spectacles included Damien Hirst’s gargantuan exhibition of make-believe treasures from a faked shipwreck. The artist, who was wandering around his exhibiton as we visited it, happily posed for a number of photographs with members of our group.

One of the most arresting sights however was not formally part of the Biennale at all; an unidentified Englishman was spotted sailing down the Grand Canal on the opening morning of the festival in a Maserati converted into a boat.

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